Kathryn and her mum share their story
12 year old Kathryn Bell of Denbighshire, helps look after her 9 year old sister who has Jacobsen’s Syndrome. Kathryn helps her sister with food, drinks, medications and plays with her. Kathryn is one of over 700,000 children and young people all over the UK and here in North Wales who look after someone, usually a parent or a sibling, who is ill or disabled.
The lovely Kathryn tells us a little about what it can be like to be a Young Carer.
What is good about being a Young Carer?
Kathryn: I care for my sister a lot. I love her so much and we have lots of fun. Jacobsen’s Syndrome means that she grows up like us but her mind stays at the toddler stage. I ‘get her’ and I have a really close bond with her.
Mum: Kathryn enjoys [going to WCD Young Carers] as it helps her have time to herself and be with others who understand, and she has had the opportunity to meet Welsh Government Ministers in Cardiff to represent Young Carers too.
What are the challenges for you?
Kathryn: My sister also has ADHD and can get very active, physically powerful and difficult to manage. [Because her mental age is younger and she needs attention like toddlers do] I don’t get any time to myself. It can also be difficult to do what I want to do and to go on holidays and things.
Mum: Kathryn does struggle from time to time with the needs of her sister, but she does gradually understand how to use coping skills.
What helps with those challenges?
Kathryn : Swimming and stress relieving toys. WCD Young Carers group also helps; it gives me free time and a chance to meet other children who have similar responsibilities to me outside of school.’
Mum: Kathryn swims and is into competitive swimming as often as possible, this activity is Kathryn’s release from her sister, as she can channel possible frustration into adrenaline to enhance her swimming skills.
What would you do for Young Carers if you were Prime Minister?
Kathryn: I would make sure that every one knows bout Young Carers and that they can get additional help especially those who are caring alone, so its not all down to them.
Mum: Kathryn is passionate about young carers and I believe if she was prime minister she would make sure that all young carers far and wide would have the same options and activities and support they so much need.
What is your key message to other Young Carers and their parents?
Mum: My message to Young Carers and their parents is don’t give up. Find the inner strength – this comes from talking others and seeking skills they have resources they have and then bits and emotions will fall into place.
Every Young Carer and every family is different. Young carers do many things that other young people might not usually do, such as:
- Talking to someone who is distressed and helping them communicate.
- Helping get someone out of bed and dressed.
- Collecting prescriptions and giving out medicines.
- Managing the family budget.
- Cooking, housework and shopping.
One in twelve children becomes a Young Carer at some point during childhood (BBC (2010). There are young, unsung heroes in every neighbourhood. With support Young Carers can thrive, but without support so many do not achieve their potential in school and can become isolated.
If you want to find out more about local support for Young Carers just call (01597) 823800 and you can find out about local outreach support, local groups and support networks. If you are a teacher or youth worker, you may also wish to find out how you can identify and support the Young Carers that you come into contact with. WCD (pronounced Wicked) Young Carers is the local support project in touch with over 1200 Young Carers, hosted by Credu Carers and funded by Wrexham, Conwy and Denbighshire Councils, Betsi Cadwaladr Health Board, Children in Need and The Steve Morgan Foundation.